Friday, October 28, 2016
I recently ran across the image of an old paperback I had back in the late ‘70s and it brought back a flood of memories. It was the same edition I had owned of The Glittering Plain from the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library series, which pretty much took over the field when the Ballentine Adult Fantasy series petered out. The crappy blue monocolor cover and the hippy-dippy “mod” font on the inset was unmistakable. .This got me googling around the internet to unearth some information about the long-gone Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library series of books. I hadn’t thought about them for decades. Those old style covers eventually were phased out for full color covers with original art with later issues.
The creators of the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library series, Douglas Menville and Robert Reginald, were no newbies to the fantasy genre or to publishing. They previously had produced the magazine, Forgotten Fantasy from October 1970 to June 1971, running to only five issues of reprints of fantasy works. I seem to recall seeing some copies lying about years later at used book shops, but I never picked them up, to my loss. Little did I know, but the mod font of Forgotten Fantasy inset on the covers of the NFFL series was from the previous magazine, Forgotten Fantasy. It only took thirty something years to clear up the mystery for me! The late sixties and throughout the seventies were a rich time for new stories, revivals of old stories and for the world of gaming as we know it.
You’ll see some familiar faces with the NFFL series such as William Morris, Lord Dunsany and lots of H Rider Haggard and even an appearance of Bram Stoker. Many of these authors had previously appeared in the Ballentine Adult Fantasy series, although those stories were not repeated in the NFFL series. More importantly you will find some authors not commonly mentioned in the past fifty years such as Leslie Barringer author of the hard to find Neustrian Cycle. David Lindsay is there, but he’s not the modern American author, but the Englishman who wrote A Voyage to Acturus (1920), which appeared in a precursor volume of the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series in 1968.
As a warning to some of the younger readers of this blog, the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library series is a collection of antique books that are primarily Anglophile or Eurocentric in scope. They were reprinted in the 1970s, much like the earlier Ballentine Adult Fantasy series and should be treated as a snapshot of that period. Many of the books of these series were originally published a century or more ago, so they may not conform to the present state of fantasy writing, which is just as well, as fantasy is all about going out of the box and exploring “what ifs”. When we lose our ability to dream and to put those ideas out in public we lose a large part of ourselves. When we lose the possibility of publishing those dreams or being able to find them at bookstores or on line, we are in a dystopia.
One may ask, why such old tales are important now? Here thirty five years later, well after the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library ended its run and the original stories are sixty to a hundred fifty years old, with its books consigned to private libraries and to quiet bookshops, these authors have something to say to us about times past and about how people thought and read. Really, they are not fundamentally different from us nor we from the author of Gilgamesh.
I’m not here to create new or anoint exiting cannon, just to give new readers some ideas outside of the (present) box and let some older readers go down memory lane for a bit with these familiar works. There’s recently been a lot of fuss about Appendix N  books and the like, as well as other “must read” or “must not read” lists. There are attempts to control the narrative of Fantasy in the present as well as quelling books from the past. Let’s keep our intellectual freedom open and away from self-appointed gatekeepers who think that they are the only ones who know what should be in print or on the net. The other side of this problem is that there are those who think that the Fantasy genre is static, like a fly in amber and only their approved cannon is of consequence. Both sides are wrong.
Many of these books are out of copyright and available for free on line through such sites as Project Gutenberg or its sister down under Project Gutenberg Australia, or at the Internet Archive.org as well as through other electronic means. I found nearly all of them online in a variety of e-formats, including audio, and for free. Did I mention free? Additionally, some of these titles can be found as physical books at on-line book sites and at some book shops, used and for fairly reasonable prices. Call me old fashioned, but nothing really takes the place of holding a real book in your hands.
I have listed these works in order of their printing in the NFFL series, with the title and author linked to a page. You can easily explore around and learn a bit about these books and their authors.
Joris of the Rock (1928) by Leslie Barringer, the second book of the Neustrian Cycle, #9 NFFL, pub Sep 1976
The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician (1890) by Edwin Lester Arnold, #11 NFFL, pub Apr 1977
Shy Leopardess (1948) by Leslie Barringer, the last book of the Neustrian Cycle, #13 NFFL, pub Oct 1977
The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed (1914) by Kenneth Morris, #15 NFFL, pub Apr 1978
Jaufry the Knight and the Fair Brunissende (1856) trans by Alfred Elwes #21, pub Oct 1979
When Birds Fly South (1945) by Standton A Coblentz, #23 NFFL pub, Apr 1980
I’ve enjoyed doing a bit of research on the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library and find that I had owned and had read about half of the books on the list, several from the NFFL, which means I have a dozen more books to read!
In some cases there are no simple links to the titles available. I ask the readers to please help and add the articles to Wikipedia if they have read the books. When you do so, let me know and I’ll update this list with a link.
Keep on reading … CoastConFan
 I’ve written previously about some of the books from the Ballentine Adult Fantasy series books in other posts on my blog, eventually I’ll actually produce a post about the BAF.
 The introduction and book list to Appendix N of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979) by Earnest Gary Gygax, p 224 says it well: http://www.digital-eel.com/blog/ADnD_reading_list.htm
Additional Links of interest
List of books by Haggard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_H._Rider_Haggard
List of Lord Dunsany books https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Lord_Dunsany
List of William Morris books http://www.morrissociety.org/morris/bibliography.html
Leslie Barringer’s three Neustrian Cycle books might still be in copyright, if so, they are available as pay e-books online.
A great site with some of the illustrators for H Rider Haggard’s books http://www.visualhaggard.org/illustrators